Not quite done with the Spanish influence in our life, we take ourselves to one of the best cities in Europe, Madrid. With a stopover here cheaper than flying Argentina to Ireland direct, Matt’s return to the city to guide Sarah is a welcome rest before the antics that will surely prevail in the forthcoming wedding in Ireland.
With little under 24 hours in the city of we decide to concentrate on the Parque de El Retiro, the train station and of course a tapas place or three before finishing the evening with a craft beer.
Located near Plaza del Sol the Fun Sleep Hostel has a laid back vibe with modern environs in which we have breakfast in preparation for a massive day in the mid-summer sun of Madrid. Trust us, it’s scorching and exploration is best attempted in the early morn, late afternoon or all day by the stupid (us).
A favourite with runners, walkers and rollerbladers alike the groomed and manicured Parque de El Retiro is a perfect start and within walking distance of Plaza de Sol. Studded with the usual statues, wide boulevards and fountains, it’s the rectangular lake flanked by the curving Monument to Alfonso XII that is the fairytale-esque highlight.
Designed by Architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) is a glass pavilion inspired by and creatively named after The Crystal Palace in London (which burnt down in 1936). Nestled next to an artificial pond the space now houses art exhibitions.
Belonging to the Spanish monarchy until the 19th century when it was handed to the public, you could spend hours here strolling the rose garden and exploring the many secret corners. But we didn’t have hours…
Madrid’s decadent Atocha Railway Station is also worth a look for its impressive tropical garden complete with full size palms. Luck for us there’s a tapas place across the road and this is where we’re introduced to the magnificence of Museo del Jamon.
Is 9am too early for a jug of Sangria?
With combo deals like this the thought lingers long enough to make the wise decision that no, it’s not a good idea, for the fact that we may not leave the Museo del Jamon, which turns out to be anything but a Museum.
Hoeing down a bocodilla each we decide we should follow the locals, and wash it down with an early morning beer (when in Madrid!) before it’s out the door and into the streets. Walking back to the Plaza del Sol with its armadillo like Metro entrance, we’re both in need of replacement piercings so a quick duck into the nearest parlour has that sorted.
Meandering the streets of Madrid is the best way, as always, to find randomness and we soon find ourselves at the Mercado de San Miguel, renown as a foodies enclave with wallet busting prices attached. Moving further into the streets beer o’clock strikes (again) and ‘conveniently’ we ‘just’ happen to be in the beer brewing district by Bilbao metro station.
The aptly named Cerveceria L’Europa is the only bar open and it’s five o’clock on a Friday arvo! With the clouds hanging from the ceiling it’s reminsant of times spent in the Haufbrau House at Oktoberfest, Munich. A Hefewiezen completes the double sending us on our way.
The new kid on the block is Madriz, a venture started several months previously. With a pricier range and posh glass to suit, we support the owner Sergio in enjoying a few of the local made brews. Sarah’s such a fan IPA’s that the purchase of a new t-shirt is a no brainer.
To complete the trifecta the more traditionally attired Oldenbury brewpub on a nearby corner gives us more Hefewiezens at the bar in conversation with an older Spaniard couple. Feeling our 24 hours wisely spent and maintaining drinking form we head for the hostel and turn our consideration to our next episode, an Irish wedding.
You can check out more Madrid photos on our Flickr page.